In Ritual Sites and Religious Rivalries in Late Roman North Africa, Lander examines the rhetorical and physical battles for sacred space between practitioners of traditional Roman religion, Christians, and Jews of late Roman North Africa. By analyzing literary along with archaeological evidence, Lander provides a new understanding of ancient notions of ritual space. This regard for ritual sites above other locations rendered the act or mere suggestion of seizing and destroying them powerful weapons in inter-group religious conflicts. Lander demonstrates that the quantity and harshness of discursive and physical attacks on ritual spaces directly correlates to their symbolic value. This heightened valuation reached such a level that rivals were willing to violate conventional Roman norms of property rights to display spatial control. Moreover, Roman Imperial policy eventually appropriated spatial triumphalism as a strategy for negotiating religious conflicts, giving rise to a new form of spatial colonialism that was explicitly religious.
Shira Lander is the Director of Jewish Studies at Southern Methodist University, Texas, where she holds a faculty appointment in Religious Studies. She previously served as the Anna Smith Fine Senior Lecturer for the Program in Jewish Studies at Rice University, Houston, where she also directed the Boniuk Institute for Religious Tolerance. Her publications focus on Jewish-Christian relations, including the commentary on 1 Corinthians in the ground-breaking publication, the Jewish Annotated New Testament (2011). She is the co-editor of A Most Reliable Witness: Essays in Honor of Ross Shepard Kraemer (with Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Nathaniel DesRosiers, Jacqueline Z. Pastis and Daniel Ulluci, 2015).
Introduction. Scaffolding; 1. Foundational assumptions; 2. Christian perceptions of communal places; 3. Internecine Christian contestation; 4. Christian supersession of traditional Roman temples; 5. Christian supersession of synagogues; Conclusion. Ritual spatial control, authority, and identification.